Geek Trivia

Where Did IBM’s Super Computer Watson Learn To Swear?

Watching Jersey Shore
Reading Urban Dictionary
Listening to Audio Books
Playing Poker with Researchers
The Largest Nuclear Reactor Not Located On A Body Of Water Is Found In?

Answer: Urban Dictionary

In 2011 Watson, the IBM super computer best known for its run as a Jeopardy contestant, gained a new tool in its language arsenal: swearing.

Researchers in charge of expanding Watson’s vocabulary and ability to use language in a more nuanced and natural fashion thought it would be helpful to teach Watson slang and colloquial sayings. Essentially, they wanted to give Watson the ability to speak more like we speak to each other and less like a super computer carefully selecting an answer.

To this end the researchers unleashed Watson on Urban Dictionary, the massive 7-million-entry Internet dictionary of slang words and phrases. On one hand the experiment was a huge success, crunching through the Urban Dictionary database radically expanded Watson’s word selection and the nuance of its language use. On the other hand, Watson proved to be terrible at distinguishing when its language was and was not appropriate–shortly after it acquired its new vocabularly from Urban Dictionary it reportedly responded to a researcher’s inquiry by reporting it was “bullshit”.

In response to the changes in Watson’s vocabulary researchers terminated the Urban Dictionary experiment and set up filters to help Watson refrain from swearing in the future.